Happ nearing return, may start Tuesday

Happ nearing return, may start Tuesday

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays have yet to make any final determinations, but it's possible that left-hander J.A. Happ will return from the disabled list to start on Tuesday against Cincinnati.

Happ made his first official rehab appearance for Class A Advanced Dunedin on Thursday night and allowed three runs on seven hits over three innings. Initially, he was expected to make another rehab start, but some pressing needs in Toronto's rotation might speed up that timeline.

Toronto currently has a four-man rotation and another starter is needed by Tuesday. The Blue Jays also have exhausted their backup starter options, and bringing back Happ a little early would alleviate some of the concerns, even if it means Happ would be pitching with more restrictions.

"We're in a little bit of a holding pattern," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons admitted. "We're still up in the air with what's going to happen Tuesday. It could very well be Happ."

Happ has been out since April 16 because of inflammation in his left elbow. The original hope was that he would miss one start, but the discomfort lingered and he only recently began airing it out from the mound. Happ likely would not be able to toss more than four or five innings if he returned Tuesday, but that also might be enough considering the alternatives.

Left-hander Francisco Liriano also appears to be nearing a return. He left the Blue Jays on Friday to begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Buffalo. The plan is for Liriano to pitch on Sunday and then he might be in a position to return by the end of the week. Friday night's starter, Mike Bolsinger, continues to be the temporary fill-in until Liriano returns.

"If we decide to go that route, the thinking would be, there would be limitations, but we might be able to get as much out of him as somebody else," Gibbons said of possibly starting Happ on Tuesday. "That's still up in the air right now."

Goins takes a seat

Blue Jays utility man Ryan Goins lost his spot in the starting lineup when Troy Tulowitzki and Josh Donaldson returned from the disabled list on Friday night, but his manager was full of praise for the job he did while they were away.

Toronto went 20-18 while Donaldson was on the DL. A lot of the credit for that record belongs to breakout position players such as Kevin Pillar, Justin Smoak, and especially recently Devon Travis, but Goins deserves some recognition for keeping things afloat as well. Goins' .212/.266/.356 slash line won't turn any heads, but he provided very strong defense at shortstop while also coming up with some timely hits, including a grand slam in Thursday's victory over the Brewers.

Goins' first grand slam

"I can't say enough good things about what he did with the bat," Gibbons said. "Shoot, he got some big, big hits along the way. Some home runs and, to be honest, I didn't expect that. I've seen him really good in spurts, but he really stepped up. Tulo was out, I don't know a month, five, six weeks, I think we would be in much tougher shape if he didn't play as well as he had."

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.